The Army Reserve officer alleged to have had an affair with former CIA Director and retired Army Gen. David Petraeus could be forced out of the service.
Paula Broadwell, a lieutenant colonel with a top secret security clearance, is under investigation by the FBI for sending anonymous, threatening emails to a Florida woman who is friends with Petraeus. The FBI traced the emails to Broadwell’s computer, and in so doing uncovered evidence of her affair with Petraeus.
No charges have been filed against Broadwell. However, the emails, as well as public statements she reportedly made about the U.S. consulate attack in Benghazi, Libya, could end her 15-year military career, according to Phil Cave, a retired Navy judge advocate in Washington DC who specializes in military law in private practice.
"If there is an issue with her judgment they can seek to revoke her clearance," Cave said on Monday, noting Broadwell's reported statements that the CIA was holding prisoners in the Benghazi compound that came under attack. The CIA has denied it was holding prisoners and that detail has been reported by no other media outlet.
If officials can determine that Broadwell committed any offenses or unprofessional conduct during a current period of active duty, she could be flagged and held on active duty for prosecution the same as any other active-duty member, Cave said. That would make her subject to all the disciplinary actions available, including letters of reprimand or dismissal.
If she is in a Reserve unit and not on orders then any action likely would be limited to administrative punishment, which still could include being dismissed from the service, Cave said.
Cave did not expect prosecutors to pursue adultery charges against Broadwell, a punishable offense in the U.S. military.
"I doubt she'd be prosecuted for the adultery. But certainly she might be in jeopardy on the threats," he said.
Lt. Col. Matthew Lawrence, a spokesman for the Army Reserve, said on Monday he does not know if Broadwell could face legal action from the Army.
“Nobody’s made any decision whatsoever” about that, he said.
Broadwell is an Individual Mobilization Augmentee, meaning she continues to have drill or training obligation and is assigned to an active-duty unit. But Lawrence was unable to say which unit Broadwell is assigned to.
Broadwell was promoted to lieutenant colonel on Aug. 28. She achieved celebrity status earlier this year with release of All In: The Education of Gen. David Petraeus, which she researched and wrote while Petraeus was still an Army general and overseeing the war in Afghanistan in 2010.
In the preface to All In Broadwell says she traveled to more than 60 countries during 15 years of military service and was called up for active-duty three times since 9/11.
Lawrence said he had little releasable information on Broadwell but could confirm that she was “never activated” in support of the wars in Iraq or Afghanistan.
“There is no record of deployments [for Broadwell] as an Army Reserve soldier,” Lawrence said.
Lawrence said that her Reserve commission would have required her to do at least five years on active duty but he did not know if she did only the five or served longer.
Broadwell did not respond to Military.com’s emailed request for clarification about her military service.
According to a biography posted on the publisher’s All In website until it was taken down, Broadwell also said she had worked in ”geopolitical analysis and counterterrorism and counterinsurgency operations,” spent time with the U.S. intelligence community, U.S. Special Operations Command and the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force.
During an appearance in July at the Aspen Security Forum in Colorado, Broadwell said she had a Top Secret clearance and routinely had access to high-level briefings with Petraeus and other Army and intelligence officials while in Afghanistan.
"I was entrusted with this opportunity to sit in on high level meetings with General Petraeus,” she said. “Sitting in on SCIF [sensitive compartmented information facility] meetings in the morning, listen to classified chatter of terrorist talk and so forth.”
The affair that has now sunk Petraeus’ career came to light after Jill Kelley of Tampa, Fla., an unpaid social liaison to nearby MacDill Air Force Base, received anonymous, threatening emails. Kelley reported the e-mails to authorities. Kelley and her husband have been identified as friends of Petraeus and his wife, Holly.
Several media reports are quoting Petraeus’ former military spokesman, retired Army Col. Steve Boylan, as saying the affair with Broadwell did not start until November 2011, two months after he was named director of the CIA.
So far the FBI has not indicated what threats were made in the emails.
According to reports Petraeus learned of the investigation and the emails over the summer and was shocked to learn Broadwell was harassing Kelley. Friends and associates of the former CIA director told The Associated Press on Monday that Petraeus insisted to them his relationship with Kelley was strictly platonic.
The two families came to know each other when Petraeus was at MacDill as commander of U.S. Central Command from 2008 to 2010. It was then that President Obama asked the popular general to take over U.S. forces in Afghanistan.